In the past few months life with a double-lung transplant has been a little bumpy for me.
It all started back in March when after a routine bronchoscopy, which if you don’t know what that is, it is a procedure where a fiber-optic instrument is passed into the windpipe in order to view the bronchi in your lungs. While the doctor is in there they do other things too, like take tissue samples (biopsies) and put in a small amount of fluid, I know it sounds weird to introduce fluid into your lungs, but it’s a very small amount, but then they withdraw it and send it off, along with the biopsied tissue, to run various tests.
Following my March bronchoscopy, I wound up in the hospital with a Pneumo-Thorax, a.k.a a collapsed lung. While it is one of the risks of a bronchoscopy, it usually doesn’t happen, very small percentage, but I guess I’m “special,” because it happened to me. I was admitted to the hospital the day after the bronchoscopy and a small chest tube was inserted to re-inflate the lung. While in the hospital here in Asheville, the lab results from the bronch came back and it was also confirmed that I was in what is called acute rejection, level A3.
There are basically two kinds of rejection for transplant patients, acute and chronic. Acute rejection is treatable and reversible. Chronic rejection is kind of like the wear on your tires, it’s not reversible but you can do things to keep the “wear” from getting worse. So, while in the hospital for the collapsed lung they started 3-days of high doses of Prednisone called Solu-Medrol. This is basically 500mg of Prednisone given each day for three days. Usually the first-line of treatment for acute rejection.
I traveled back to Duke in April for a follow-up bronch to see if the treatment had lessened the rejection. It had but only by one level, so I was now at level A2.
Duke then told me that I would need to come back to them for a more intense treatment this time which would wind up involving a 6 day stay in the hospital. This treatment, called RAT-G, basically took my immune system down to a low-level in order to try to break the cycle of rejection. Believe me when I say it wasn’t fun. Most people have very bad flu-like symptoms as side-effects during this 3 day treatment. Me, the first day my blood pressure plummeted, my fever spiked to around 104, and other issues crept in. So, they waited a day in between the first and last two treatments to let my body recoup. The 2nd and 3rd days went much, much better and I was able to tolerate them very well.
Following the RAT-G, it took me about 3 weeks to feel like a human again. Duke sent me home with a 3 week follow-up IV. Energy finally began to come back, although slowly, and I was eventually able to stop avoiding people and germs. Not necessarily in that order!
So, fast forward to early May. I’m back at Duke for another bronchoscopy to see if the RAT-G did its job. Well, the rejection is still at A2, ugh. I’m feeling good, my Pulmonary Function Tests have been good, they even came up 3 points from the last time, but now Duke wants to be even more aggressive with treatments, as if that’s possible!
It’s now a 3-step plan. Step one, more Solu-Medrol, which I’ve completed, step two, surgery to prevent acid reflux, step three, an even more intense treatment that will basically zero out my immune system for a while, kind of like hitting reset on your computer or electronic devices. Then, more tests and prayer that the cycle of rejection will be broken.
I’ve said all along, my time on this earth, and for that matter your time, has already been allotted to us. Our days have been numbered since the beginning of time. As Jesus said in Matthew 6:27, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life ?” And as Job states in Job 14:5, “You (LORD) have decided the length of our lives. You know how many months we will live, and we are not given a minute longer.” (emphasis added)
So am I worried, not a bit! On the worrying scale of 10 I’m at 0! I’ve already been given a second chance at life, first spiritually and now physically. Is this the end, or the beginning of it? The doctors don’t know, I don’t know and you don’t know. It’s in the Lord’s hands only, and that’s the ONLY place I want to be!